Interferon… Day 3

Well, we do feel like we are getting a little bit of a routine going, and perhaps some progress on side effects.  This is a huge praise!  Yesterday Kevin received an anti-emetic (nausea) drug in his pre-interferon IV drip, and that made a HUGE difference with all of his side effects.  At first we didn’t think it did, since he started feeling aches and chills before he was even done with his IV drips.  But I got him home, and he began his usual routine of crawling into bed to try to sleep some of the effects off.  After getting him settled in, i headed downstairs (we’re getting good use out of those baby monitors… hehe!)  About an hour later, he came downstairs, and said he was feeling almost 90% and that he wanted to try going into work.  He went in and did great, making it through and then coming home for dinner.

He went into the office this morning and worked through until 1:00.  We had changed his scheduled time to the latest slot they have, which was 1:30.  We’re not sure if we’re going to regret it, because it’s currently 3:45, and he’s still not gotten the results of his labwork back, and thus hasn’t even begun the IV drip.  Not sure if we are going to run up against closing time or something.  I guess we’ll find out.  The idea was simply that he usually got sick right after treatment, so why not do it at the end of the day, and at least have a good day working in the morning.  The true test will come tomorrow to see how he feels the morning after an afternoon treatment.  It’s odd how much trial and error is involved in all of this, and we don’t know if others do it this way, or just kind of accept whatever is initially spelled out for them.  Everyone is different, but Kevin is such an analytical guy, that approaching this all methodically and trying to find the best combination of drugs, timing, etc. to be able to function the most has made sense for us.  It’s kind of the way we work with lot’s of things.  Nerdy, I know, but we both appreciate if we’ve figured out the most efficient way to go about something, especially if it can make life a little (or in this case a lot) better.

Up until a few days ago, I only had a passing understanding of what interferon alpha actually was and what immunotherapy actually did.  I read a new pamphlet that explained things pretty well, so I thought I’d share for those of you science nerds who were interested.  I am constantly floored at the miracles of modern medicine.  I mean, seriously, how do they figure this stuff out?!

Interferon Alpha is a treatment for some people who have malignant melanoma.

Your Immune System

Your immune response involved your body’s ability to distinguish cells that are native to the body from those that are foreign and are invading your body.  The immune response is like a “general alarm” that signals your body that something has entered or does not belong there.  Viruses, bacteria, and even cancer cells can activate your immune response.

Your Body’s Lines of Defense

Your body recognizes foreign, diseased, or cancerous cells because of special marks on their surfaces.  These marks allow your body’s immune system to distinguish them from healthy cells in your body.

When this occurs, the immune response begins, sending fighter cells to destroy invading cells.  The cells of your body that have been stimulated will begin to produce interferons and other natural substances.  Although the precise mechanism of action is not fully understood, interferon is a protein that is part of the body’s immune system that “interferes” with the growth of certain cancer cells.

Interferon Alpha is a product that contains man-made protein called interferon

So there’s the info for all the nerds out there.  I know I found it interesting to better understand what’s basically happening, and it also explains why Kevin gets flu-like systems from the treatment.  His immune system is effectively forced to stay in “fight” mode.  It also explains why this treatment, difficult as it may be, is not as toxic or dangerous as many kinds of chemotherapy.  As best I understand, chemo is basically killing cells, and the race is for it to kill enough cancer cells before it kills too many healthy cells.  Interferon Alpha works differently in this regard, and I suppose for that we are grateful.  Though it still pretty much sucks.

Well, it’s 4:00 now, and still no response from the lab regarding his chemistry workup.  We are one of two couples left in the clinic, and they are turning off lights in certain areas of the room.  Hmmm… is this a sign we’re going to get kicked out soon?  Well, I guess we’ll see!

Prayers please to continue for strength, for treatment to go as planned, for energy for Lila as she is tending to the kids, meals, and the home full time, and for Kevin to continue to be able to work at least some.  We continue walking literally one hour at a time, but praising His Holy Name all the while.  God is good!

Interferon… Day 2

Well, in some ways yesterday was better than Monday.  First of all, Kevin tried taking his anti-nausea medication before he was nauseous… I know, I know, what a concept… and it really did work.  No throwing up and no nausea, so that is a big improvement over the previous day.  Let’s hope that the nausea continues to stay at bay.  But this time, he did start feeling the effects of the interferon much sooner, in fact before we’d even left the hospital (it didn’t hit him until an hour or two later on Monday).  He was having chills and aches while he was finishing up with his IV drip.  We don’t know if this is because he’s starting to have the medicine be built up in his system (a little discouraging, because that means it will just continue to get worse as we go along).  Again, we will trust in God and just take it one step at a time.

The routine did seem to be the same, so we hope this will at least be one area of predictability for us.  Based on his experiences Monday, Kevin decided he wouldn’t even try to go into the office, but try to work from home as he was able.  We went home (me sweltering, because Kevin needed the heat blasting in the car) and I got him settled into bed.  He slept (or at least attempted to sleep) for a few hours, and then did a little work.  He’s already finding he doesn’t have a big appetite, so I suppose he’ll be losing those last 20 lbs he’s always wanted to lose!  Not that I would recommend cancer as diet plan.

Tuesday was also better for me as I managed to keep the house a little quieter and more peaceful.  I had a big challenge on Monday relating to our friends and neighbors on our street.  As many of you know, we purposely chose to move into an under-resourced neighborhood in the inner-city.  This neighborhood has a very diverse mix of socio-economic levels, and a good deal of the neighbors on our street that we have connected with are poor.  There are often a lot of needs, and we have been navigating having a healthy, neighborly relationship with these new friends over the past few months.  It has been a blessing and life-giving in many ways, as so many of them have given back to us from what little they have.  But a few weeks ago, some of the neighbor kids from down the street started visiting me and the kids in the afternoons more and more.  We had been hanging out on our porch a lot, and I enjoyed having these kids come and visit with me and my children.  But their presence increased very quickly, to the point that they wanted to come over every day, were ringing our doorbell before my kids were up from nap, and were coming back every half hour asking if we were ready to play on the porch.  I had been working on establishing some boundaries and setting some expectations, but also praying about our call to see our neighbors truly as neighbors, not merely a service project.  I felt that that meant treating these kids and my other neighbors as I would treat anyone from my own socio-economic background.  We are very early in our ministry of presence in this neighborhood, and at the same time were hit with so many challenges for our family, that we are struggling to find that balance.

Monday ended up being one of those days.  Without going into too many details, it seemed like there was one person after another needing something, whether it was a hungry child wanting to join us for our family dinner or a neighbor with an uncle who was dying that day from cancer and needed a shoulder to cry on.  It was literally one thing after another all day long, and I was struggling with getting distracted with all of these pressing needs.  Now, I have Lila here taking care of my own kids and the house, and I had purposely asked her to come so that I could 100% focus on Kevin and whatever his needs would be.  But I found myself “putting out fires” with stuff on my street, while racing back and forth upstairs to check on Kevin, bring him water, a puke bucket, etc.  The day was neither peaceful nor quiet.

At the end of the day, I sat down to try to process what had happened.  I knew that we needed good boundaries in a neighborhood with many needs.  I knew that we were very early in our time here, and needed to not get burned out so as to be able to be present for the long run.  I knew all these things, and yet on the very day that I needed to most prioritize my family, I had gotten sucked in.  The hard part here is that these are all God’s children, with very real needs, and there will continue to be many that we encounter.  This is a ministry that we feel called to.

But, and this is the big caveat, I believe that God has called me first and foremost to care for my husband and my children.  Whatever is left over can be committed our other callings.  I think this is an area where many can get burned out and frustrated.  They know that God has called them to big ministries in their lives, but wonder why they are feeling so burned out and tired, or their marriages or their kids’ lives are a mess.  As I thought through all of this, I determined that I would not let it happen to us, but was not quite sure how to backpedal out of the environment I’d created and expectations I’d set.  In these past few months, I’ve purposely reached out to neighbors, walking over and chatting with them, helping out with little things, being friendly and welcoming.  And now I wasn’t sure what to do, because it felt like everyone on my street seemed to think of our house as the place to go to.  These were good things, very good things, but not if it meant I couldn’t serve in my primary ministry – to my family.

I asked a friend for advice.  She and her husband run a formal ministry in the neighborhood that reaches out to and mentors at-risk kids.  She confirmed the very things I’d been feeling and shared stories of people she knew who had thriving ministries, but their marriages were a mess, or their own kids were neglected.  She encouraged me to close the blinds, keep the front door shut, put a sign out saying the Hill house was “closed” due to illness, and focus on what was happening inside my house, not outside of it.  And so yesterday I did, wondering if my neighbors would think me unfriendly or uncaring.  But you know what?  They all understood, and were glad to know how best to support us (in this case, staying away for now).  Even the kids were understanding in the best way they could.  When I was coming home from a quick errand yesterday, they said, “I saw your sign Miss Rachel.  I hope Mr. Kevin feels better soon.”  And then they ran off to play.  It was such a relief, such a peace, to know that there was understanding, and that the beautiful messiness of ministry in the ‘hood was something we just might be able to navigate.  This was only one small step I’ve taken, but I believe for myself, the most important thing is to make sure we are moving in the right direction.

So here we are.  I’m sitting in an uncomfortable visitor’s chair next to Kevin waiting to get started on day three.  We’ve been here since 7:30, and he’s just now started his IV drip.  Hopefully we’ll be home by lunchtime, and the routine will continue.  This is all so hard, harder than I think we could ever imagine, but also a strange blessing.  I never thought I’d say cancer was a blessing, but it is.  God is carrying us through and we feel Him holding us oh so close.  I am spending special time with my husband, with both of us seeing sides of the other we never thought we would.  We hold our children a little closer, knowing how precious life is.  And we are daily reminded that today is the day that the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad for this day.

Interferon… Day 1, and thank you

First of all, I want to share how completely overwhelmed both Kevin and I have been by the outpouring of love from friends and family, with financial contributions, meals brought over and even sent from afar, gift cards, boxes of homemade cookies, friends showing up to clean our house!  All of the sweet notes and cards, both physical and virtual have meant so much to us.  It’s been a busy, tough month.  I can’t believe I didn’t manage to post ANYthing this entire month!  I have at least five different draft posts started but never finished, and now they all seem horribly out of date.  Ah well, thank goodness there are no blog police.

So the latest “news” is that we found out a few weeks ago that Kevin would not be eligible for the clinical trial after all.  This was “discovered” right after Kevin had been given costly PET scans and other tests that were only necessary for the trial.  We’re pretty sure we won’t have a problem with insurance paying for them, but it’s annoying and frustrating that there was such waste, nonetheless.  In addition, Kevin would not normally have had a PET/CT scan so soon after radiation, and it caused some needless worry for us, since there were hot spots showing up on the scans that took a few days to determine were just residual markers from radiation.  Not fun.

Basically the reason that he didn’t qualify is because he wasn’t able to start the trial within 120 days of his first surgery.  I knew that he wouldn’t when we first found out about it just by calculating the dates of his surgeries, the radiation he was going to have to have, and the various recovery periods, so I was more than a little annoyed that somehow the woman managing the clinical trials had “miscalculated”.  I’d asked her about it early on and she said it would be fine because there was no way to get it all done in that time and so they’d have to take him and that it would be all fine.  But whatever, what’s done is done.  We knew he’d have a 50% chance of still getting the standard of care (i.e. the more difficult drug) anyway, so now we at least knew with 100% certainty what would be happening.  So, we immediately changed gears and started preparing for interferon.

I was more grateful than ever that my parents had bought Lila a ticket to come out for the first several weeks of the high dose phase of treatment, and she arrived last Thursday, ready to help out.  We had a lovely weekend hosting a neighborhood meet and greet at our house, cooking a meal to bring to some neighbor friends who’d just had a new baby, enjoying my niece’s 2nd birthday party, and even hosting our friends Rob and Rachel’s daughter’s first birthday party on Sunday afternoon.  We don’t normally book ourselves quite so full, and it was a little tiring, but I think both of us were glad to just be busy instead of sitting around thinking about Monday.

Saturday evening we held a time of prayer and scripture reading at our  house with some folks from our church and really felt like our hearts and spirits were prepared for whatever would happen on Monday.  We still didn’t really know what exactly would happen, how long it would take, or what kinds of side effects he would have.  It wasn’t for lack of asking, we just kept getting the same response… it depends, there’s no way to know until you start, everyone responds differently, sometimes it takes less time, sometimes longer, it all depends, etc.  Arghh!!!  For two people who like planning, this was definitely frustrating for us, but also such a lesson in trusting in our Father completely one day at a time.  So, knowing that there was nothing else to think about, we put it out of our minds.

For me, I think I’ve finally realized that all my cleaning and organizing and putting systems in place in our new house has been my way of coping.  I definitely felt motivated because I knew if things got crazy, I wanted there to be enough margin for things to get messy and not completely fall apart.  But really, it was about having some sort of control and order over at least one aspect of my life.  In some ways, I was like a mad pregnant woman over the last few months, furiously nesting, cleaning, sorting through boxes of junk, and organizing closets and cabinets.  But the result is a house that feels peaceful and calm, and my hope is that  we can keep it that way for this month and just focus on rest and recovery.

I didn’t really sleep at all Sunday night, partly from having so much on my mind, and partly because my children kept waking up.  Poor things, I think the pollen has gotten to them as much as me, and unfortunately it’s frowned upon to give zyrtec to one and two year olds.  At 6AM, we got up, showered, ate a good breakfast, and then headed over to the hospital.  Kevin got checked in and had lab work done, and then we had to wait an hour for those results.  We found out that he will have to do that every day.  He met with his doctor, who he will meet with each Monday for the next four weeks.  Then he got moved into the infusion center, a big room filled with hospital grade la-z-boy recliners (they’re really made by la-z-boy!).  They had already put an IV in his arm, so after more waiting (there was a LOT of waiting) they gave him some fluids intravenously for 30 minutes, then the interferon drug for 20 minutes, then another 30 minutes of fluids.  As best we can tell, this will be the routine for each day.  As I write this though, we are at the clinic for the second day and they decided he needed fluids for 45 minutes before the drug this time, so who knows.  Anyway, we were done around noon, and I dropped him off at his office to go to work.  He said he had a slight headache and felt a little crummy, so we were hoping that we might have gotten lucky with limited side effects.

I drove home, and almost as soon as I pulled up to the house, Kevin called me and said I needed to come back and get him.  I turned around and headed back to pick him up, knowing he must be feeling pretty bad to be willing to go home from work (he’s a pretty tough cookie).  He was waiting for me with a co-worker who’d walked him down and carried his bags, so I knew it was bad.  He told me he’d gotten hit with everything all of a sudden, nausea and vomiting, chills, and aches.  We both felt more than a little discouraged that he was feeling this rough the first day (we were told the effects were cumulative, so this wasn’t a good sign for where we were headed).  I got him home and got him some of the anti-nausea medication.  What followed was more nausea, chills, wanting tons of blankets and a space heater , and finally sleep.  After a good nap, I was surprised when he came downstairs, feeling completely better and hungry.  Either the effects of the interferon wear off quickly each day or the anti-nausea drug works very well.  He took the drug right before treatment today to hopefully prevent such strong effects today, so we’ll see.  Please ya’ll, continue to pray that the side effects this month are mild enough for him to work.  He needs to work for income of course, but also wants to work.  It gives him something to do and also a sense of normalcy.  He is by no means a workaholic, but enjoys his job and works hard at it, so that will be the hardest part for him if he is not able to.

So here we are today, hanging out at Emory Winship Cancer Clinic Infusion Center.  I guess it will be our weekday home for the next several weeks… we’d both personally prefer a cruise, but it’s nice to be spending so much time together right now nonetheless.  The kids are doing well and Lila is pretty much running the house.  I am struggling to not let the challenges of our neighbors and our calling to ministry on our street interfere with my primary job which is to care for my husband and family, so please pray for me in that area.

We will keep everyone posted as this phase of the journey continues, and again know that we treasure all of your gifts of prayer and encouragement and everything else.  Thank you again, all of you, for walking this path with us.

Being carried in His arms,

Rachel and Kevin


Today was a rough day for me.  Well, let me say that yesterday was rough, and I was still feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted today.  But, the thing about having two small children is that they don’t really know or care about how you are feeling.  Nothing against them, they’re cute and wonderful and all, but they’re not really gonna “go easy” on you because you’re feeling tired and depressed.  The house had gotten progressively messier through this week (amazing how it really only takes a couple days of not “tending to” a house to have it completely thrashed when small children live there) and anyway, the mess was also feeling overwhelming and starting to make me depressed.  The morning chatter over the baby monitor had grown into a more insistent whine and when it became a cry, I knew I’d better get myself out of bed and downstairs to greet my little morning glories.  Jude in all his wonderful “two-ness” greeted me with whines and cries and Evie joined in in stereo.  I just couldn’t take it any longer, and the morning had only just started.  I snapped at my son and yelled at him, telling him to stop whining, Mommy couldn’t handle it.

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His little eyes looked up at me from the changing table and filled with tears.  I’d somehow managed to never yell at him before, and he’s a sensitive little guy, just like his daddy.  I brought my face close to his, kissing him, telling him I was sorry for yelling, just really tired today.  I finally got the crying to stop through the ancient art of toddler distraction… “Jude, do you want to make mommy some coffee?”  And just like that, he happily finished changing into his underwear and ran out into the kitchen to make me a cup (before you get all DFACS on me, it’s a keurig coffee maker, and he’s done it a million times with me watching.  He’s more cautious than even I am about hot drinks).

I finished getting Evie ready for the day, and sat on the floor with her, wondering where the heck her water spray bottle and hair clips basket had gone to.  Fixing my daughter’s hair had been a small joy and distraction that I had grown to enjoy in these past few weeks.  She’d gone to bed with her hair in pigtails because I’d been too tired and it was too late by the time we got home yesterday to administer a bath, and so now her head looked like she’d stuck her finger in a light socket.  And I couldn’t for the life of me find her hair stuff!  It may sound silly, seeing as the mess around me was getting to the point that we would soon not be able to find the floor, but this was important to me.  Somehow, it felt important that Evie’s hair was “done”.  It meant I was on top of things enough and my life wasn’t falling apart at the seams.  Her hair was embarrassing to look at, and while some might think it was cute, these half kinked dents in her pulled out pigtails, to me it was another feeling of just one more part of my life that I just couldn’t keep together.  It was just one more way that I was falling apart.

Now I know.  My husband has cancer, I’m fighting to get several very large insurance issues sorted out in the precious hours provided me by babysitters and naptimes, and oh yeah, we did just move into a new house only a couple of months ago.  I kind of have a good reason to have a messy house, messy children, and a pretty messy life right now.  But while by no means am I a neat freak, the mess around me was much more indicative of the mess inside.  I have felt so terribly isolated during so much of this.  I live near many family and friends, but everyone’s lives are busy, and mine is so unpredictable, it’s been impossible to stay connected with any regularity to just about anyone.  I make plans to do fun things with my children, only to have them derailed by a need to sort through medical bills.  I want to take a walk with my husband and the dog to enjoy the beautiful weather, but radiation has wiped him out, and he’s suddenly feeling nauseous.

I looked around at the mess on my floors, and feeling the mess in my heart.  My heart hurts.  I ache.  And I have a two year old who is calling my name.  I called Kevin to see if he knew where Evie’s hair things were.  I also asked if it was a busy day, and if he might be able to come home for a bit.  He said he would if I really needed him, but I could tell in his voice that there was  a lot going on that day, and I also knew pragmatically that Kevin really needed to save his days off for the next stage of the battle.  I told him I wasn’t doing too well, but I’d figure out a way to push through for one more day.

That’s the thing.  Some days, some hours, I feel like I’m doing pretty well.  But then things swing the other way.  All perfectly normal given the current circumstances, but difficult nonetheless.  I wake up and feel like I would have trouble making it through the day without two very needy little ones.  I wake up feeling like, if only I could have a “sick” day, I could recover a little bit, and I might be able to make it through.  But mommies don’t get sick days.  I wake up and know, that for today, I must push on.  I force myself not to think about tomorrow, and tomorrow’s tomorrows, because, as Jesus tells us, tomorrow has enough worries for itself.  I focus, pray, and put my head down, and try to make it through just one more day.

Funny how God knows, though, exactly the things you need.  This morning the mess was so bad inside, that after feeding my kids leftovers from last night’s dinner, I retreated to the front porch with my littles.  Oh, how I adore that front porch.  My father built an amazing picnic table for us on one end, and hung a porch swing for us on the other.  Throw in a few painted garage sale rockers, chain everything down (even picnic tables have been known to walk away in neighborhoods like ours), and it’s an entire other outdoor room.  Even in the rain, I can sit on our covered porch and taste and see God’s creation.  I can breathe in His beauty in the gentle breeze, and oddly, all three of us started to feel a little better.

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Jude notices that the daffodils have finally bloomed (we got the bulbs in super late, so I think they’ll always be our late bloomers) and he decides that we need to take some pictures.  I talk to him about smelling the flowers, and he immediately orders me to smell the “dils” and he will “take picture”.

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From the mouths of babes, they remind us of God’s true desires for us.  I breathe a little more deeply, smell that lovely little daffodil, and Jude snaps a picture.  He enjoys playing with the filters in instagram and sending the picture to our friends.  Oh, how fast he is growing, and how mornings like this, that start out so rotten, turn into these precious moments to hang onto.

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Don’t wish this time away, Rachel!  Listen to your words here.  Do not. wish it. away.  These moments, this season, it is important.  God has a plan for every moment of our lives.  Whether or not this was something He orchestrated, He is in control, and we are to trust in Him alone.

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God’s blessings continued to come today in the form of an old high school friend who brought her family to visit and a meal for dinner.  Jude had a blast playing with her adorable boys, and I enjoyed some adult ears for a few short hours.  Also, the promise of “company” gave me enough motivation to get the living room clear enough that you could see the floor again.  Well, mostly.  And I even might have done a load of dishes.  But the laundry, well that will have to wait for another day.  God works miracles in so many ways, maybe I’ll wake up in the morning and it will all have disappeared.  Treasure these moments, and be overwhelmed.

11 Days of Gratitude Day 3 – Grammy Lila and Grandpa Paul

I think in my mind I thought that this “11 Days of Gratitude” series would be something I would write a short post about everyday through to the 11th of January.  I think I had a brief moment of insanity where I forgot that I kind of have a lot going on right now.  So, maybe I’ll get through this series before 2012 is over.  We’ll see.  Luckily, the blogging police aren’t going to come out and arrest me.  In case you missed the first two posts from my 11 Days of Gratitude for 2011 series, you can find them here:

Day 1 – Evelyn Lila

Day 2 – Mom and Dad

For those of you who don’t know, Paul and Lila Vornbrock are friends of ours who kind of “adopted” us and our family back when we lived in LA.  They are friends from church and we know their kids through the college ministry that we used to help lead.  When Jude was born, he was adopted as their surrogate “first grandchild”.  Lila was always there for me, helping out during that early newborn fog.  Kevin’s mom had passed away, and the rest of our family didn’t live nearby.  So Lila and Paul kind of stepped in and filled the gap.

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She and her daughter Kira were Jude’s first babysitters, and kept him for our first overnight away, our 4th wedding anniversary.  When I went back to work part-time, she volunteered to watch him two afternoons a week while I drove a school bus for the nearby Christian school.


For Jude’s first year, Lila, who quickly became Grammy Lila, was a constant, positive addition to Jude’s life, and to ours.

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And Kira was Auntie Kira, jumping in to help out as well

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Over time, he won over Paul, who would come home from work and peek into Jude’s playpen where he was napping, wake him up, and say, “See!  Baby Jude wants to see me!”

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When it came time to make the move to Atlanta, I was excited about new beginnings, and especially a chance for Jude to begin building a relationship with Nana and Papa, my own parents, but it was bittersweet.  I wondered if he would remember the Vornbrocks.


I figured that the next time we saw them would be several months, maybe even a year, and they would be strangers to him.  And it broke my heart.


But still, we knew that the move to Atlanta was what we needed to do, so we continued with preparations, while trying to treasure the remaining weeks we had together.


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Amazingly though, Paul and Lila have stayed a huge part of Jude’s and now Evie’s life.  Thanks to the magic of videochat, digital photos, facebook, and of course, a few well placed plane trips, we have all been able to see each other on an almost daily basis.

Jude loves to Skype with Grammy Lila and Grandpa Paul and has been known to place a call on his own a time or two.

Evie makes a beeline to the computer when she hears Grammy’s voice.

I am so grateful that they have remained a part of our lives.

But this post is what makes me grateful for them in 2011, not 2010, or even 2009.  Back in September of 2011, Paula and Lila booked tickets to come  out and help us with moving into our new house.  Little did we know that we would need them more than ever.  Paul ended up not being able to make it out due to some unexpected health problems, but Lila ended up extending her stay and helping us not only with our move, but staying through Kevin’s first surgery, just five days after the move.  That woman pretty much single handedly packed up and moved our entire house, then unpacked it all and got everything set up and settled in before she headed back to her own home.  And she did all of this during one of the most intense and difficult periods of my life.

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In the course of a month, we had closed on our first house, undergone major renovations, Kevin was diagnosed with cancer, we moved into our new house, and Kevin had his first surgery.  I think it’s an understatement to say that life moves pretty fast around here!  And Lila was there to help us through all of it, all the while knowing her own husband was having health problems.  Once Paul’s condition had been diagnosed and stabilized, he was adamant that Lila stay out here to help us out, saying that the Lord had a purpose for her being there.

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And truly I believe that He did!  They had made their plans to come weeks before we had received the cancer diagnosis.  There is no way that any of us could have known that the timing for Lila’s visit would coincide so perfectly with a time of such great need.  There is also no way that any of us would have known that my mom’s knee surgery (which left her and my dad unable to help out very much) would end up being just one day before Kevin’s surgery.  Again, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been scrambling for babysitters at the same time as moving and getting his surgery set up.  God’s timing was perfect and precise.  Lila was there in the EXACT weeks that we needed her most, and God knew it all and laid it out so perfectly.

I know this post is about the things I’m grateful for in 2011, but considering it’s the end of February and I’m just now getting my third post out in this series (at this rate, it’ll take me all of 2012!) I’m going to continue to share how grateful I am that Paul and Lila’s blessings extended into 2012.

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They scheduled another trip to come out and help us, just as Kevin’s radiation was getting going.  They stayed for two weeks at the end of January and the beginning of February.  At that point, the radiation hadn’t built up in Kevin’s body enough to really make him too worn out, but again, God went before us, knowing what we needed more than we ourselves did.  I had no idea how isolated I would feel when Kevin started going to radiation without me.  He got up every morning at 5AM and headed off by 6, and he was experiencing this whole thing all by himself.  Up until that point we had been in this “together” even if he was the one undergoing all the surgeries.  It was incredibly disconcerting and difficult for me to have him going through this all by himself, and so what a blessing, a few weeks in, that once Paul and Lila were here, I was able to go with Kevin to every one of his treatments during their stay.  Keep in mind that Paul and Lila were on Los Angeles time, three hours earlier, and still they got up and took care of those kiddos at 8AM Atlanta time.

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In addition, it was such a joy to have so many of the grandparents in one place together, growing closer in their own friendships, bonding over the love they have for us and our family.  On a daily basis, it has left me overwhelmed.

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My dad and Paul installed light fixtures, fixed holes in the roof, and just generally got things “shipshape” around the house.  Lila made sure the house got cleaned, the freezer got filled with food, and everybody’s hair got cut.



And Kira snuck in from New York City to surprise us for a small, belated birthday party for little E.

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Again, during a difficult and exhausting time, these amazing friends of ours, who for whatever reason, seem to really like us, have just showered us with love, compassion, boundless energy, and such open hearts at a time when we are spent and drained and exhausted in every imaginable way.  We are forever grateful for Grammy Lila and Grandpa Paul and Auntie Kira.  And by the way, Jude says that you need to come to Waffle House with him.  Very soon.